Cache La Poudre (Hide The Powder (gun) in French), 1964 -65
We loved the mountain air, pine tree smells, the sound of the Poudre River rushing down the canyon over the rocks. We did not care for the bull snake in the dugout cellar in the side of the mountain, the rattlesnakes and the mountain lion.
We had a nice cement finished dugout cellar right outside the back door. It was nice and cool inside and kept an even temperature year round. The only thing that resided in that cellar was a big bull snake. They told me that bull snakes a harmless, but a snake is a snake and I gladly gave him his space. I was also told that bull snakes keep rattle snakes out of the yard. OK with me, but I still watched out for rattlesnakes, especially with three fearless little ones running around.
My clothesline was about 25 feet from our back door running up and down the mountain from rock to rock with a big rock in between. It was situated so it was in a sunny spot most of the day. The clothes dried fast in the mountain air in the warm sunshine. About the third big basket of wet clothes that I hauled out to be dried, something caught my eye. It didn’t jump. It didn’t run, it slithered. There on the rock between the clotheslines, was a big rattlesnake. He was resting in the sun. I can pretty much figure out how to get rid of most anything but not rattlesnakes. I let him have his fun in the sun on his favorite rock and I hung out the rest of the clothes on the hand rail going up to the front of the house. From then on I carried a hoe just in case of my next encounter with Mr. Snake.
The reason for the hoe was because it was my mother’s favorite snake killing tool. On the farm we usually only had water snakes, garter snakes, garden snakes and little green snakes sometimes in our yard. Never, never did I see a rattlesnake on the farm. But we were always taught to look down when we were walking through the tall grass and weeds. I do this to this day even though there are not any rattlesnakes in the wild in Alaska.
First thing Mom would do when she went out the door was grab the hoe, and she used it like a walking stick except when she encountered a snake of any kind. My Mom would go into the “snake dance stance”— swinging the hoe over her head and chop and chop any kind of snake that happened to be around the house. After the harmless snake was chopped into little bitty pieces, Mom would make a trench alongside the chopped up snake, scrape the remains into the trench, cover it with dirt and stomp the loose dirt with the hoe until it was solidly packed down. I still smile when I see the image of my Mom doing the “snake dance stance.” She was a good teacher as I carried a hoe for protection from snakes too. I never used it like my Mom did though.
One of the purchases a few days after we moved to the mountains was a ringer type, old fashion Maytag washing machine. We had water that was pumped from the river through a culvert up the hill and into our house. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it had to be primed, which meant a trek down and across the highway to the river to prime the pump. So we were very conservative with water.
I borrowed two 50 gallon barrels from my dad, put them under the eaves of the house and caught rainwater for the washing machine and the kid’s bath. With a galvanized bucket I hauled rain water into the kitchen to heat and poured it into a larger galvanized tub for the kid’s bath. Many times when we had a warm rain I would give the kids a bar of soap and they would stand under the drain spout and take a rain shower. I also heated water for the washing machine on Mondays, of course. Wintertime was a completely different story as I hauled dirty clothes to the laundromat and dirty kids to Mom and Dad’s house.
I fixed up the cabins and rented one out. More later about what a mistake that was!
That fall I got a call from the hospital in Fort Collins, telling me they had reviewed my application and would I please come to work in the medical records office. Boy did that change our way of life!
I was thrilled about working at a hospital, but that made a trip up and down the mountain roads every morning and every night. That was OK in the summer, as we made many stops along the way to see the beauty of the canyon. The winter snow storms were the swirling kind that made you concentrate because if you didn’t you thought you were upside down or dizzy or both! My kids learned to be very quiet in the middle of a snow storm and usually by the time we got home, they were asleep. Not so in the summer time as one occasion sticks in my mind and theirs forever.
Being very tired on a Friday evening, after traveling back and forth each day, taking Gail to school, David and Susan to the babysitter and myself to work, then going to pick them up on the trip back up the mountain, a fierce argument broke out in the back seat of my old four door ‘54 green Chrysler (no seat belts!). Having told them three or four time to sit down and be quiet, I completely lost my cool and at the next turnout beside the river, I pulled over, jumped out of the car and told all three to get out! Screaming at the top of their lungs and saying we won’t do it again, I pulled all three kids out (poor Susan was only 2 1/2) slammed the back door and drove off – to the other end of the parking pullout.
Their scream echoed up and down the canyon as all three stood in a huddle in the middle of the pullout. When I stopped Gail took each of their hands and started running for the car. I got out and opened the door, they got in and I shut the door calmly. There was three little “I’m sorry we won’t fight anymore” as I drove off to our little home in the mountains. That lasted about two more weeks, and when an argument broke out, one would say, “Do you want Mom to dump us out again?”
Solved that problem the rest of the time we lived in the canyon.
Saturdays or Sundays we would go up to see our new good friend Marie Bean and play Yahtzee and eat her homemade ice cream sandwiches that she made from graham crackers and vanilla or chocolate ice cream. The kids learned how to count, add, subtract and multiply while playing Yahtzee with Marie. She was a retired school teacher and taught them very well. She lives in Fort Collins now and I will forever be grateful to my good friend that I have known for 48 years. Thank you my dear friend.
Next week, snow storms, bad mentally ill renter, horseradish leaves and truck drivers and stalking mountain lion.